Special Needs Require Special Emergency Procedures. See How One Educational Entity Is Keeping Kids Safe With NaviGate Prepared
School safety and planning is already complicated. But what happens when you factor in complex educational entities that help children with emotional and physical disabilities? See how one Pennsylvania Intermediate Unit is using technology to keep special needs students safe.
Improving school safety and updating antiquated safety procedures is a chief concern among education professionals. Moving from a manual paper-based system to a school safety and security software solution is a complex yet necessary investment, especially for students in Intermediate Units.
Intermediate Units provide educational instruction and related services to some of the most challenging and fragile children in our school systems. These children have a vast variety of educational, emotional and physical disabilities. Of course, a timely and effective response to emergencies in any school setting is critical to protecting students and staff. However, with Intermediate Units, response to even the most mundane events trigger actions that involve children with significant physical, visual, communication and developmental challenges. As a result, we adopted NaviGate Prepared, a safety app designed to help staff respond safely and effectively during drills and emergencies.
As an administrator at Colonial IU 20, one of the primary reasons I spearheaded the adoption of this platform was to help us transition from paper-based plans and flip charts to a real-time digital process. The paper versions of planning become quickly outdated and are typically not functional in times of emergencies. We needed to beef up safety plans and move to an electronic format. I have spent my career working in education and I can speak to the layers of coordination that go into emergency preparedness. NaviGate Prepared understands those complex layers and how to methodically transition from a manual safety response plan to a comprehensive digital platform.
Adopting NaviGate Prepared
Implementing new safety and security software takes time and committee participation and signoff. In addition to servicing the educational needs of children, our Intermediate Unit serves as a place for districts to become organized with various efforts. At a monthly Emergency Preparedness meeting, we invited school safety and security vendors to present their solution to the districts. NaviGate Prepared was by far the most robust solution. We were sold and thus began our security overhaul and implementation journey.
- Drill Logs: We have had NaviGate Prepared for about six months and are still in the process of uploading all our documentation into this format. Rollout should be a methodical process to ensure everything is as complete as possible.
We started with drill logs, which are wonderful. After being in public schools for 37 and a half years, drills and drill logs were always an obstacle, particularly from a central office point of view. Drill Logs with NaviGate Prepared make it easier to schedule drills and set reminders. I know when a drill is due, if a drill is postponed or even it if happened before it was scheduled. Plus, we can remind principals when they have a scheduled drill coming up and that information is shared with someone in the central office to help track it. If it gets close to the end of the month, we have full visibility and can remind the school of an upcoming drill or a drill that needs to be done. It provides full transparency, which leads to increased efficiency because we are all working together.
- Flip Charts: The next phase of implementation for us will be flip charts, which is exciting. I will no longer have to worry if everyone is has been keeping up with revisions and additions. As soon as edits are made in NaviGate Prepared, it will update immediately and everyone will have the current information.
Plus, when you are going from paper to mobile-based technology, it’s a big draw for users. They will see the instant value in it. I can’t imagine anyone pulling out a paper flip chart and not finding something that is outdated. Our staff is excited that updating and changing FlipCharts in NaviGate Prepared will be automated and easy. Also, when you make updates to paper flip charts there is a large printing cost, which leads to efficiency and reliability issues.
- Virtual Binders: The Virtual Binders are a great feature in NaviGate Prepared. First, we took all of our aerial photographs for each facility and created a Virtual Binder for them. They are now at everyone's fingertips. They are always accessible and can be easily updated. Next, we took all of our Safety Data Sheets and created a Virtual Binder for each building and for each department within the building.
The Virtual Binders provide a location for all of the additional information that you need for your plan. The information is easily accessible and is easy to update.
School Safety: Communicating with Emergency Responders
Keeping the information in our flip charts up-to-date is just one piece of implementing NaviGate Prepared. However, it has a direct tie to the information that is important to emergency responders. For example, if there is an emergency at night, first responders armed with this platform will know who to call if they need to reach someone at the Intermediate Unit facilities because the information is right at their fingertips.
Additionally, NaivGate Prepared puts the floorplans of each building into the platform. NaviGate Prepared then came out to take pictures of each room in the building. Once in the platform, you click on a room in the plan and get a 360-degree view of the room layout or on a camera icon to get a live feed to see what is happening inside of the building. The floorplans also show exits, fire extinguishers, emergency call stations, emergency shutoffs, etc. Of course, we already know this information, but this will be invaluable to our large network of first responders.
To provide some context: The Intermediate Unit has about 1500 teaching staff, covers 13 school districts, three vocational technical schools and spans three counties. We have classes in district buildings, plus three facilities of our own including an alternate education school. We are covered by three different police departments and fire stations. This is common because many school districts in Pennsylvania are large and span several municipalities.
NaviGate Prepared provides a way to share the information with all the first responders in various jurisdictions and keep that information up to date. It’s also a two-way street, the contact information that I have for police and fire chiefs needs to be up to date, too. First responders will be able to update their contact information in real time. It will be a continuous process and commitment from all parties involved.
In fact, we are just introducing NaviGate Prepared to our first responders now. I want to show them the power of this tool and how it can help them. Access to cameras, floorplans and our emergency shutoff locations are features that will really pique their interest. It’s a robust tool that we want them to be excited about as well.
Why a Phased Rollout Is Important
As of now, NaviGate Prepared is in three facilities, so we have 30–45 thrilled committee members working together to roll this out. Our administrative team is also extremely excited about NaviGate Prepared. As we wind down the phased rollout, we will interface with our student information center. We are in the process of presenting this platform to all staff included in the rollout. We will let them know about the app and how they can download it and have the emergency plans on their desktops and mobile devices. They will be able to initiate a response, such as a lockdown or evacuation. We’re excited to train our staff and share with them the power that it puts in their hands.
However, we are certainly not rushing the process. I feel it’s important to have it as populated as possible with information that will work for them before implementation. For example, I could have rolled out the floorplans a few weeks ago, but I feel like the camera component is a big part of what the first responders will love. If you roll it out too early, users will acknowledge that the solution is great but that it’s missing information, which is why it must be as complete as possible before you roll it out to the masses.
If you are going to make it useable and functional, you can estimate a three- to six-month rollout. Regardless of the excitement generated from this solution and enthusiasm for it, we owe it to all involved in this initiative to take our time and get it right. I look at this as long-term investment in the welfare of the Intermediate Unit. Implementation, in my opinion, will always be ongoing.
It’s an outstanding product with outstanding support staff. We are already seeing the benefits in our phased rollout and look forward to the next steps. I would encourage anyone looking to improve their safety plans and make the transition from paper to digital to learn more about NaviGate Prepared.